Literally Crazypants

Back in 2006 while scrolling through the new multi-channel broadcast of the Olympics I landed on the shuffleboard-on-ice that turned out to be curling. My whole family became fascinated by this simple looking sport that completely confounded us.

Every 4 years I have gotten excited for Olympic curling while still having no idea what was going on. It’s mesmerizing. All the yelling in Nordic languages. The crazy sweeping. And The Pants.

The Norwegian curling team debuted wild pants in their national colors in 2010. Now, two Olympics later, The Pants have their own Facebook page with nearly half a million fans. For PyeongChang, the team packed a different pair for each day — and pants with hearts for Valentine’s Day play.

What started out as a lark has become a signature. From a fashion show to video of the players putting their pants on with no hands, media is nuts for the Pants.

Here’s the thing: The Pants are not their brand. Just like your logo isn’t your brand. But who they are led them to express themselves in a way that shows the world what they are about. They are a TEAM. Everyone wears the Pants. I heard another Skip (captain) interviewed who said he could never get his guys to do that. I think that says something about their unity.

And how they choose to do it shows their personality. Not that they are different but how they are different. It leaps over language and game rules. Just like how the New Zealand Rugby Team the All Blacks, pre-game ritual Haka, has helped attract a global fan base.

I mean, do you know anything about any other curling team? But I bet 4 years from now, you’ll be saying “The Pants are back”. And who knows – you might even start Googling to learn the rules and see where curling is played in your town.

Brand isn’t a static thing. It’s a process that builds over time.

Resolving to rebrand? Why a new logo shouldn’t be your goal.

And just like that, it’s January again. A time of new goals, crisp calendars (for those who still do paper) and optimism for the new year ahead.

But just about now, there’s a common imposter “goal” that finds it’s way onto many organizations’ annual communications plans. This year we want to remove its mask and reveal it for its true nature.

We’re talking about “The Rebrand.”

Far too many organizations — large and small — confuse their visual look and logo with their actual brand. And it’s common to reach for a visual rebranding as a panacea for lackluster marketing performance and community engagement.

Yes, it’s true that maintaining a current and attractive look is important. And if you’re sporting creative that is older than your interns, it’s definitely time to refresh.

But in reality, your brand is far more than just your logo. And it’s not a goal in and of itself, either.

Your brand is the bridge between your mission and your vision. It’s a tool for engaging your community in order to reach your goals.

And for the tool to properly do its job, a rebranding effort should neither start, nor end, with your logo. It requires clear vision and a comprehensive approach, with each step advising the next, including:

  • Understanding your audience
  • Developing a message that marries your mission and your audience’s needs
  • Designing a recognizable image to reinforce that message
  • Creating an experience that drives engagement

Audience. Message. Image. Experience. Try to make “image” do all the work on its own, and you’re destined for disappointment.

Too often we hear about organizations who dropped thousands of dollars on updating their letterhead, their website and their print collateral with their new “brand,” without taking the time to really define their vision, their voice and the audience they’re trying to reach. Sadly, their efforts have typically failed.

So this year, don’t just put a new look on your list of goals. Instead, revisit your organization’s vision. And make a true rebranding a key objective that helps you achieve it.

 

For an expert approach to research-driven rebranding—an approach that impacts your organization’s very culture and drives member participation—give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

What you Should Invest in for 2018

GUEST POST from Claire Axelrad

We’re well into the second decade of the 21st century, yet many nonprofits still operate like it’s 1999. There’s a pervasive anti-technology bias that’s causing well-meaning organizations to shoot themselves in the foot.

Why? The reasons I’ve heard from nonprofits include:

  1. Technology is expensive.
  2. Our current staff don’t have technological expertise.
  3. We don’t have the resources to hire technologically-savvy staff.
  4. We’ve done quite well in the past without all this technology.
  5. We don’t want to chase shiny new objects.
  6. This is a fad. Tried-and-true techniques will win in the end.

While there may be a nugget of truth in all these excuses, they’re still just that.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

You can either jump onto the technological rocket ship that’s taking everyone else into the future, or you can get left behind. You can embrace, or reject.

For 2018 Claire suggests beginning with a thorough analysis of what you really need, and what those things might cost you.

  • Begin with a user-friendly website. 82% of donors visit your website before they make a gift to you. Keep it up-dated, use visuals and stories, and have clear calls to action.
  • Facilitate online giving. It continues to grow at 7%/year, while overall giving remains flat, growing just 1 – 3%/year.
  • Find out what social media channels your constituents use, and prioritize those. Track engagement via your current channels, and consider eliminating those that are moribund. Even though your board member thought Snapchat or text-to-give would work like gangbusters for you, maybe that’s not the case.
  • Short videos, short online articles and short emails keep donors most engaged, informed and inspired to give.  Are you using these tools?

Based on the current zeitgeist, not investing in technology has a real cost!

Figure out what you need. Is it staff? Skills? Budget? Tools? What do you do every day, and what requires only periodic support? What are the areas of expertise of your current staff responsible for daily digital operations, and what skills do they lack? Make a list of “must have” vs. “would be nice.” Then determine whether you can train current staff in some of the missing areas, or whether there are some essential skills you’re missing.

Since often tech folks specialize in a particular area, small nonprofits might consider outsourcing some of these functions to a professional team that can assist you with skills you lack on staff. There are companies specializing in IT support, website management, online fundraising, digital marketing and other functions. Develop a budget so you can use your resources wisely.

Key things I recommend investing in (and you can get some of these for free):

  1. Cloud hosting to free you from the cost of on-site server maintenance.
  2. Web hosting to improve your professional appearance and give you room to grow.
  3. A CRM to help you build and maintain strong donor relationships.
  4. Email automation software to help you segment your lists, run segmented and automated campaigns and optimize delivery times.
  5. Social media content marketing tools that increase your efficiency and maximize use of limited resources (e.g., BufferHootsuite).
  6. List building tools so you collect contact information from website visitors (e.g., Hello BarSumo).
  7. Graphic design tools to improve branding, grab greater attention and increase engagement (e.g., CanvaPicMonkeyPablo).

Find Your Focus. Banish the “And.”

As the holidays approach, we’re entering the time of year that one of our clients, a school communications director, always found the most challenging.

I like to call it her season of “ANDs.”

As in: the holiday appeal AND the year-end email AND the distribution of the holiday performance recording via YouTube AND Facebook AND Twitter AND email AND the blog. AND did I mention, she was a communications staff of one?

Maybe you can relate, even if your staff is a little larger. Even if your season of ANDs is a little more year-round.

Maybe you’ve finally figured out how to juggle all the communication balls you have in the air when your board wants to know why your organization’s not on Pinterest and Instagram (because Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter aren’t enough).

Or your boss suddenly decides the target of your next appeal should be your usual Baby Boomer cat lovers AND Millennial dog lovers—to cover more ground.

The problem with the AND spiral is that it eats up valuable resources without an equivalent return on your investment.

It’s one of the roadblocks to skyrocketing participation that I always point to when I’m teaching our clients the five shifts in thinking needed to succeed like an eight-figure organization.

 The solution to the “ANDs”? Finding your focus to leverage your effort.

It doesn’t matter how much time your staff pours into an endeavor if your audience just doesn’t relate—or just isn’t there. Which means your first, most important step is knowing your audience. We’ve covered that topic a lot and you can read more about it on our blog.

Once you’ve clearly defined who you’re talking to, the mantra “FOCUS” is your best friend.

Focus means messaging that speaks directly to your perfect audience and no one else. Promoting only the initiatives that are likely to interest them. Sharing in the places they like to interact with you.

How do you hone this focus? Pair a communications audit with a short-term action plan.

This is an exercise we take our clients through when we’re conducting a rebrand. However, it can be an incredibly powerful endeavor as a stand-alone exercise as well.

Chances are that by this time of year you have a neglected document at the bottom of your drawer or buried on your server—gathering real or digital dust: your Communications Plan.

Now is the perfect time to pull it out, take a close look at what you are—or intended to be—doing. Take some time to evaluate what’s working, where you may have gotten sidetracked, and whether you’re even likely to find your audience in the places you’re looking. Review the materials you’ve produced and the campaigns you’ve conducted over the last year, noting whether it all comes back to one focused center and identifying the efforts that produced the greatest returns.

Armed with this new perspective, you’ll be able to start laying out your new, streamlined plan, without all the baggage that’s been weighing you down.

For even greater focus, try using our approach: write a short-term Action Plan that focuses on the next 3 things you can do that will have the greatest impact. This will help you to continuously reevaluate what you’re doing and where you’re going. Besides, with the speed that today’s world moves, what’s big now could already be old hat in six months.

If this task sounds daunting, you’re not alone! Many find it helpful to have an objective eye take look at their plans, because when you’re on the inside, it’s easy to get too close to the details—or too caught up in execution to have the time.

For an outside perspective on your communications plan, or to get help with where to cut and what to streamline, give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

The Hidden Flaw That’s Killing Your Marketing

While we do a lot of work helping organizations define their brand, many others come to us with a professional look already in place. Thoughtful messaging that’s been carefully crafted. Impressive programming.

And another problem entirely: their marketing just doesn’t produce the results they want.

Could your conferences be better attended? Your services more widely utilized? Your donors more generous? Is your organization’s membership like a revolving door—people are in and out, but not as many stay as they should?

If you can relate to any of these challenges, you might have the same problem we see stealthily undermining so many organizations’ marketing efforts.

Before we tell you what it is, you have to promise us to keep an open mind. Because nearly every time we’ve helped a client or taught a workshop on this problem, everyone’s skeptical at the outset.

“We’ve already got a handle on this,” they tell us.

But as we actually lead people through the exercises that help them start solving the problem, they become believers. And it changes their entire perspective, paving the way for new insights and better results.

That’s just what happened over the summer when we presented a workshop for network affiliates of NeighborWorks America, an organization that helps build the capacity of independent nonprofits working in affordable housing and community development.

The topic of the day? Knowing your audience.

Like many before them, the workshop participants told me at the beginning of the session that they already knew their audience. But I’m not easily deterred. And based on past experience, I suspected they were wrong.

So to help them uncover their true, most profitable, most potential-laden audience, I guided them through an exercise in creating a detailed “persona” for their perfect person. The person they’ll think of when they write their messaging. The person they’ll think of when they choose their communication channels. The person they’ll think of when designing programs.

And that’s when my class discovered that all along they’ve been talking to “Millenials” when they should have been talking to 29-year-old Ashley. Millenials are a broad, generic group at best, a limiting stereotype at the worst. Ashley, on the other hand, is worried about paying student debt and a mortgage, values career networking opportunities, spends weekends hiking with her fiance and loves science fiction novels.

If this sounds crazy, let me tell you, the ideas that participants generate in a 15-minute marketing exercise after they create their perfect person always blow me away. And people leave excited by the new energy this changed perspective brings to the way they think about their communication strategy.

Because the thing is, once you know who your ideal audience member really is, you know exactly how to talk to her and what you need to offer— just like you know the best way to present something to your boss to win buy-in, to your teenager to entice cooperation or to your friend to convince her to check out that new movie you wanted to see.

Is your marketing falling flat—even though you feel like your doing everything right?

Maybe this same hidden flaw is plaguing your marketing strategy.

Maybe it’s time you discovered your Ashley.

From a workshop at your conference, an exercise for your team or through consulting, we can help you meet her (or him!). Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or email us at info@iriscreative.com to talk about how it works.

Become a Champion

You want people to participate in your work. Donate, attend events, enroll, join — whatever it is you need to thrive.

Participation, however, is not just an external thing. Who you are on the inside reflects what happens on the outside. The most successful, thriving organizations have gotten where they are because they’ve rallied around a clear, impactful, shared vision.

NOT by chasing “buy-in.”

Because if you’re chasing buy-in, that means that the vision you’re promoting isn’t SHARED.

If you want to catapult your organization to the next level, the most important role you can play is to become a champion by helping your team create this vision.

And by “team” we mean leadership, staff, donors, students, volunteers … which brings us to fear. It feels risky to let your community have a say in who you are. It can be terrifying to tell your leadership they need to think differently. But it is only when there is cohesive excitement that you build a foundation for growth.

When this is working people report it as getting “buy-in,” but it really requires more than that. We call it “becoming a champion.” Buy-in sounds like someone was convinced that another person’s idea is worth doing. Champions are all-in supporters who inspire others.

When organization leaders invite participation into and among their team members to create a shared vision, their championship becomes a culture of championship.

And it’s so much easier to attract people who want to invest in a shared future.

Becoming a champion is just one of the shifts in thinking it takes to build a participation-centered brand and skyrocket success.

 

If you’re ready now to become your organization’s champion and advance a shared vision, we’re here to help!

In October we’ll be running a new session of our Build Your Brand Course. The program will include weekly Mastermind sessions to ask questions and get feedback on your work. To get a feel for what the experience is like, we are running a free Mastermind-style session, Skyrocket Branding Mastermind in September. This will help us get feedback and give you a taste of what you’ll get out of the course.

 

 

The Myth About Member Benefits, and What it Means for Your Organization

The magnificent manifesto—and what it can do for you!

Do you remember the American Express ads declaring “Membership has its privileges?”

Admit it. There are days when you wish that was all you had to say to get your existing members to renew and new members to join, right?

American Express smartly adopted the idea of ‘membership” to claim the value and specialness of being their customer. It’s clear you don’t have to literally be a membership organization to capitalize on the idea. Either way — it takes work to win loyalty, cut through today’s information overload and build up your brand to the point where people are aspiring to be part of it.

But most of us already realize that. The problem is most of us don’t know we’re going about “the work” of winning member loyalty all wrong.

 

The Myth: Sell your benefits!

Often, the things you call “benefits” are actually thinly masked “features.”

It’s not about what you do, have, or sell (features), people care about the outcome they receive by participating (benefit).

For example, if you are a hospital, you might want to promote the quality of your doctors or the cutting-edge technologies you use. Those are both features, and adding “you have access to…” does not turn it into a benefit.

Same goes for organizations that offer things like certifications. You may think that is a benefit, but it’s not. No one lays awake at night thinking “what I really need is a great webinar…”

They want the result of that webinar, certification, program, treatment, or experience to advance their career, regain their health, improve their lives or whatever value that brought them to your organization.

Instead of showcasing your features, demonstrate the ultimate, personal value your members get from them. That’s a benefit.

Put yourself in your members’ shoes. Find out what they want. Show them how they can get what they need from you.

 

The Magnificent Manifesto—And What It Can Do For You!

The magnificent manifesto—and what it can do for you!

Last month, FilmRise studio released a new indie film featuring two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett—Manifesto.

Have you seen it? We haven’t either.

That’s because in May, we were busy helping the Delaware Art Alliance create their own manifesto.

 

Why write a manifesto for a nonprofit?

Because if you can’t inspire your members to care about your work, you’ll flounder.

It will show up in members reporting that they give because it’s their civic duty or because their parents did — not because they feel inspired and valued.

In retention rates that meet the “norm” of 47% but have you struggling to hang on to half of all the people you bring in.

In days where you stare at a blank page wondering what to write.

In redesigning your logo or invitations to build awareness when that’s not the root of the problem.

A manifesto is valuable resource in the branding toolkit that builds the bridge between mission and vision. It helps you share “why” your work matters as opposed to “what” and “how”.

 

What is a manifesto?

First to dust off some of that high school social studies vocabulary, a manifesto is a written public declaration of what you believe or what you intend to do.

Throughout history, manifestos have been used to rally support for different movements and political groups—from the America’s Declaration of Independence to the Communist Manifesto.

A nonprofit manifesto takes your mission, vision, and values—which are really written for your internal audience to guide your strategy and decision-making—and frames them in a way that rallies your audience members and calls them to action.

 

A manifesto helps you rally your true team.

To rally your people, you need to really know who they are. You need to know who you are. And you need to connect with the goals you share.

But here’s the catch. If you want to be branded, you have to be willing to be perfect for some at the expense of being totally wrong for others. When you do that, you’re going to lose some people along the way.

And that’s not just ok, it’s great. Believe it or not, a smaller, deeply engaged audience typically generates more revenue than a large disconnected one.

 

Get started.

So how do you go about writing a manifesto to fire up your staff and supporters?

The format we like to use prompts “why” thinking with completing the phrases: “We value,” “We believe,” and “We are committed to.” Then closes with an action statement: “We invite you to…”

Last month we facilitated a workshop with the Delaware Arts Alliance to guide a group of staff, members, media and government through a manifesto exercise. The participants challenged assumptions and each other to reveal the things that were critically important to them. They made some tough—but very strategic—decisions that we’re certain will pay dividends in a strong, thriving organization! We’re excited for them as they refine their role and put a stake in the sand.

If your organization is feeling stuck or scattered, we can help. Let’s talk about getting your brand into focus or creating your own manifesto.

Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

April’s Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us.

April's Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us

Here at Iris Creative, last month could be summed up in one word: April.

No, we don’t mean the page of the calendar we were on. We’re talking about April THE GIRAFFE. And like many of her fans around the world, we obsessively followed her for weeks.

In case you missed it, on April 15 Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York hosted a live broadcast of their giraffe April giving birth to her calf for over 1 million YouTube viewers.

To date, their 39-minute YouTube archive clip has well over 14 million views. Fourteen million!

April even has her own official website—www.aprilthegiraffe.com. Folks contacting Animal Adventure Park with inquiries about giraffes are directed to a dedicated email address. And the Giraffe Cam even scored a sponsorship from none other than Toys“R”Us. (Remember their mascot Geoffrey?)

Needless to say, the event was a slam-dunk for a seasonal park in a county of just over 200,000 inhabitants.

From sharing slews of facts about giraffes and their conservation with millions of people to selling giraffe emojis, Animal Adventure Park orchestrated the awareness-building phenomenon many organizations dream of.

Or did they?

 

Building Awareness vs. Tapping Your Audience

Build awareness. It’s what everyone wants to do. But activities bent solely on building awareness can be costly—not only from a financial standpoint, but from a messaging standpoint as well.

Often, awareness-building initiatives result in a diluted message as you attempt to be everything to everyone in order to reach a broader audience. It’s so much harder to create a connection and differentiate yourself that way.

We’d much rather see organizations get a bigger bang for their buck—by creating a laser-focused connection with their ideal audience.

As it turns out, April’s Giraffe Cam didn’t start out with a vast audience in mind either—just her usual fans. And look where that focus got her!

Read on for our key takeaways from April’s blockbuster stream:

 

1. Listen to your audience.

According to a report by KENS5 Eyewitness News, the Giraffe Cam initiative started because the park—which is closed to visitors during the off-season—had been receiving inquiries about the status of April’s pregnancy from regular-season visitors.

The park listened.

They came up with the Giraffe Cam to keep interested folks informed.

And things snowballed from there.

 

2. Building momentum takes time.

The Giraffe Cam went live weeks before April’s calf was born, mostly, it seems, because the park simply didn’t know exactly when the big moment would arrive. Her tentative due date was mid-February.

The lead-up gave April’s viewership time to gain momentum—and secure a sponsor with appropriate tie-ins. The park even set up a text alert system so obsessed fans like us could get the latest updates.

(The Toys“R”Us logo switched to Babies“R”Us when the calf made his appearance. Talk about message alignment!)

None of this would have happened if they simply went live five minutes before the birth.

 

3. Follow up after an event. Invite participation. And add a little suspense!

After the live birth the morning of April 15th, the screen didn’t just go black. In addition to watching footage of the baby giraffe, people waited in suspense for the big gender reveal later that day. (Spoiler alert: It’s a boy!)

The park also encouraged fans—for a fee —to participate in two rounds of voting to help staff name the calf.

And you guessed it. They made an event of the name reveal, too. We’ll let you discover that one for yourself.

 

Do you see an opportunity to connect with your audience? Run with it!

Need some help getting off the ground? From engaging audiences to making the most of your events, creating connections is what we do best.

Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

(Live streams not included.)

Your Three-Step Spring Marketing Detox

In a 2015 study, 60% of working professionals report that their productivity suffers because they’re trying to tackle too many things at once.1

That’s a lot of over-busy people who are still disappointed by what they haven’t accomplished!

Are you one of them?

Is your to-do list never ending? Your desk overflowing? Are you weighed down by a heap of unfinished (or unstarted projects)?
From emails to appointments, an endless parade of time-sucking tasks have cluttered our lives and clouded our vision.

When you’re distracted by urgent needs and pending deadlines, you might never get to the high-payoff project that’s been waiting months — or even years — for you to address.

But right now it’s the perfect time to clean out and get focused!

Whether you draw your inspiration from the warm weather’s call to spring cleaning, the tradition of sweeping the chametz from your cabinets for Passover, or the idea of renewal every Easter, there’s something in the human spirit that craves a regular reset.

Here’s a three-step spring detox for your marketing to-do list:

 

1. Eliminate

First, take an honest look at your list and eliminate anything that really isn’t a priority, doesn’t have a worthwhile payoff, or has been on your list so long that it’s no longer relevant.

Just this week Beth led a social media training session for a group of nonprofits in New Jersey. When she told them they didn’t have to “Be Everywhere” the group let out a collective sigh of relief. And with the assurance that they didn’t have to do everything, they asked, “how do we know if what we are doing is worth the effort?”

Good question. So here are a few more you can ask to find out if it’s time to let it go:
• Are you reaching and holding the interest of your primary audience?
• Can you demonstrate that what you are doing is moving directly or indirectly toward a desirable action?
• Do you know which of your strategic goals that activity supports?

If you are not sure, it may be time to put that project on hold until you do.

Feeling lighter already? Great!

Now for the dreaded eight-letter word:

 

2. Delegate

Accept that you can’t do it all. If projects are stuck but can’t be eliminated, then you need to get help. A list of work backing up adds stress that can impact your ability to make progress on anything.

First decide what on your list can be handled by someone else. Accept that they won’t do it exactly the way you would and identify projects where done is more important than perfect. Indecision frequently causes more damage than a wrong decision.

In some cases, you might be able to delegate down (or across) to a subordinate, coworker, volunteer or intern. In others, (and this one’s trickier), the project might be languishing because it really needs to be delegated up the reporting chain.

If you’re finding it difficult to delegate down or delegate up, you might discover that you’re dealing with a project that you should delegate out.

Which leads us to our next step…

 

3. Evaluate

Do you lack someone on your team with the right skillset to complete the project? Are you short on the time or the expertise needed to manage the process?

It would be a ridiculous waste of resources to maintain a staff that encompasses every imaginable skillset your organization could ever need. But sometimes projects get delayed when the right person isn’t available to take it on.

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll encounter projects that you’d be better off delegating out.

Going outside for help increases your capacity without increasing your overhead. Not to mention that a specialist will get the job done faster and better than anyone juggling multiple priorities.

Outside help can come in many forms. It might be developing an ambassador program to help spread the word. It could be collaboration with another organization that has resources you can share. Or it could mean hiring experts to handle the task.

What opportunities are passing by while your message isn’t supporting your new strategy, your website isn’t working the way you want or that campaign you imagine is still in your head?

If there is a project that is stuck, let’s talk. We can help you leap forward this spring.


1 Wrike 2015 Work Management Survey Report. Retrieved from https://www.wrike.com/blog/2015-work-management-survey-report/

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